To Be or To Do?

Three arrows pointing to the left, straight, and the right

Scott Peterson | May 16, 2023

I recently read a book called CEO Excellence, and it has changed how I view leadership. The book digs into six different mindsets successful leaders have, focusing on three key ideas for each. We all know the famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To be, or not to be? That is the question.” A 2023 twist on that quote, with the ideas from CEO Excellence in mind, might go like this: “To be, or to do? That is the question.”

Effectiveness is one of the mindsets mentioned in the book, and a key idea is having a “to be” list. Historically, people lean on a “to do” list when they want to get things done. This allows people to conquer many individual tasks, finish bigger projects, and feel like they have accomplished a lot. In other words, a “to do” list helps a lot of people to be successful in the business world – but it might not be the best way to lead others.

The concept of having – and living – your “to be” list switches the focus from what you want to accomplish to who you need to support and lead. As you can imagine, this varies based on different situations.

This mindset change will put you in a better position to connect with people, thus allowing you to lead people the way they need to be led. It will also help prevent you from putting tasks ahead of people and unintentionally discounting or even bulldozing them. So, think about what kind of experience you want to provide for those you lead, and then create your “to be” list.

Mindset table

Putting people first can be a significant step toward servant leadership because it keeps the focus on them. So, will you utilize a “to be” or a “to do” list? It’s your call.